Now here’s a tall order for any business. But wait, Amazon, Zappos, Ritz Carlton, Disney and Hyatt have done it. So what makes them so special? Well, let’s take a closer look at these businesses and lift out a major feature that they all possess. By my estimation, they have migrated from just being businesses and are now positioned as “value adding brands.” Therein lies the differentiator. They write their own rules and set their own standards for delivering customer happiness. These standards are chart topping, sometimes over the top and always, way ahead of the rest of those set by businesses that are now waking up to the fact that the slogan “our customers matter to us” is not just a slogan, but a business design statement.
When we think of a “value adding” brand, we think of a business that is ceaseless in its quest to add distinguishing features in to every transaction, in a way that transforms the transaction into a memorable experience for the customer. The business gets pushed to top of mind and benefits from the release of a big share of the customer’s wallet.
It is unthinkable that these brands should ever leave their customer experience unmanaged or up to chance. The focus of a value adding brand is an obsessive preoccupation with exceeding the expectations of “every” customer served by the business on a daily basis. The drivers of customer approval ratings are the removal of all barriers to frictionless service delivery, the relentless pursuit of memorable experiences and the achievement of almost “cult like” customer evangelism.
VALUING CUSTOMER SENTIMENT OVER CUSTOMER CALL TIMES – A USEFUL CASE STUDY
A good example of these intentions is available in the story of the new standard set for the contact centre at Zappos. Whilst the customer experience statisticians have told us to establish a standard metric for the call handling time in a contact centre, Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, believes that each employee should be tethered, psychologically, to a personal and professional credo that promotes individual ownership of a sense of pride in keeping the customer happy. So, what did he do? He allowed the call handlers the freedom to stay as long as needed on a call in order to deliver customer success. When one of the call handlers spent a whopping ten hours on a call, Zappos celebrated the record and broadcasted it in a press release across the business. Which business does that? Well, the business that is about going the distance for its customers does that. But, this style only occurs in those businesses with the design feature that places the customer at the “centre” of operations. Many businesses claim to place their customers first, but it’s easy to spot the impostors. Just look at how those same businesses handle service failures and ball dropping. Hint…….they hardly ever own the failures and customers leave unhappy.
The Amazons, Zappos and Disney’s of this world are customer centric and, in many cases, “customer obsessed” (I don’t like to use this term, even though it is accepted as customer experience jargon). A typical customer comment at these brands would be; “the entire experience was extraordinary, from start to finish. It’s been two weeks since I shopped and I am still feeling the effects of such a great experience.”
I would venture that in today’s world of demanding customers and experience economies, when a comment like this is made about a business, that’s service differentiation at its finest.
CHARACTERISTICS OF COMPANIES THAT CUSTOMERS LOVE
But really, what makes the customer centric brands so special?
Firstly, they are not legacy (as in status quo) businesses, they are value adding brands that evoke a compelling emotional connection with their customers. The effect of this connection is so strong that it locks into the customer’s memory in a way that allows the sweet spot feeling to last long after the physical experience has ended. In a value adding brand culture, customer happiness is everyone’s business, there are no boundaries and there are consequences for service malpractice. Employees are hand picked through a rigorous recruitment process, leaders retain their jobs on the basis of their success at creating customer success and customer happiness sits at the centre of every business decision. Finally, KYC is not simply a compliance standard, but rather, it is a business competency that drives insight into what can be done to skyrocket customer retention scores.
Getting to customer centricity is not an easy feat. Many businesses have great intentions, but fail to launch. Businesses need energy, not lethargy, so an energized business with energetic employees becomes very attractive to customers. The C-Suite executives should be obsessed (yes, I made an exception in using the word here), with putting the extra in ordinary and anchoring the business to new service delivery co-ordinates. Converting from being manually driven to being digitally enabled, helps with releasing businesses from cumbersome processing time and adds value to transactions through improved convenience, speed and ease of doing business. Great stories are born when customers experience these latter three features in their transactions.
I was speaking recently, with the CEO of a business in the healthcare sector and the fervour and intentionality with which he spoke about moving the business to the next level was heartening. Winning with customers becomes easier when the chief evangelist of a business declares that “our customers matter to us” will no longer be a slogan, but a call to action and then moves to mobilize the entire business to a new level of service orchestration.
For the business that is intent on having its reputation for serving its customers depend on their storytelling, getting to customer centricity now becomes a mapping game between service orchestration, business design and delivering what matters to customers.
So, how’s your mapping coming along?